The Spanish Civil War, in 1936, was not merely a war in Spain. Even though it was a Civil War both the Republicans and the Nationalists were supplied by a number of European countries such as Germany, Italy, Britain and the USSR. The Germans and Italians supplied a variety of aircraft models to Nationalists, whilst the USSR provided planes for the Republicans. These were a few of the more notable planes that flew in Spain during the period.
The Messershmitt 109 was one of the classic German planes that first flew in the Spanish Civil War. When it was first constructed, it was among the most advanced aircraft designs in the world. With its Rolls Royce engine the plane had great speed and handling. It was produced in large numbers, with estimates suggesting that as many as 35,000 rolled off German production lines up to the 1940s.
The aircraft helped the Nationalists gain a degree of air superiority in the Civil War as it downed lots of Republican planes. This ensured that it emerged as the primary Luftwaffe plane in the early 1940s as it spearheaded German advances. It also took on the RAF Spitfire during the Battle of Britain, by which time it had lost some of its tactical advantages. However, the Allies had few aircraft that could match the 109 in 1939.
Dornier Do 17
The Dornier Do 17 was a light German bomber aircraft that made its combat début in the Civil War. As part of the Condor Legion it had various roles. During the period they had notable impact in the Civil War, and were front-line German aircraft by 1939. It provided air support in a number of campaigns in Norway, Poland and in the East up until 1941.
One of the British models that flew during Spain's Civil War was the Hawker Fury. It was the mainstay of the RAF until it was later replaced by Gloster Gladiators. Whilst it was gradually phased out of the RAF, it remained in action for foreign air forces such as Yugoslavia in 1941. However, by that time it was an antiquated aircraft model.
Fiat G – 50
The Italians backed the Nationalist armies, and they provided a few of their Fiat G – 50 planes to provide further air support. During the Civil War, it was one of the most effective Italian combat aircraft with great manoeuvrability.
By the 1940s it was still a big part of the Italian air force. It was widely deployed in the North Africa Campaign, but by then planes such as the Hurricane and Spitfire were more than a match for the Fiat G- 50. As it was only equipped with a couple of 12.7 mm heavy caliber machine guns, its armament was somewhat lightweight; and by 1943 the plane was somewhat outdated.
The USSR was the home of communism, so Stalin provided the left-wing Republicans with hundreds of Russian planes. Among them was the Polikarpov I – 16, which had quite a revolutionary design as it was the first low-wing combat aircraft with retractable landing gear. As such, unlike other Russian planes in the war it was more of a match for the Nationalist air force.
By the early 1940s the USSR's air force had thousands of the I-16. However, with heavy losses in the Soviet Union the aircraft was withdrawn from the front lines by 1943. A few are still preserved today.
Those were a few of the British, Italian, German and Russian aircraft that flew in the Spanish Civil War. They were among the most effective that would later become front-line planes during the 1940s. Overall, the Nationalist planes were the more effective as they emerged victorious.